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Diversity and Inclusion as a Business Strategy

Diversity and Inclusion as a Business Strategy

December 12, 2018

Each year the Georgia Leadership Council presents an award to a candidate who pursues inclusion and diversity in pursuit of team goals. This year’s winner is Anna Stevens, VP of Human Resources and Chief People Officer for Atlanta-based distributor HD Supply. The award was presented on October 19 at the Georgia Leadership Conference in Atlanta.

Stevens says the award represents the culmination of a top-down strategy toward diversity and inclusion for the Atlanta-based distributor.

“I thought it really fit with what we're trying to accomplish here at HD Supply,” she says. “Most senior leaders in the company are actively engaged in this topic and this discussion.”

Jalyn Radziminski, Coordinator for the National Diversity Council, says Stevens was a natural choice for the award. “She is committed to supporting people, and she is inspirational to those around her for being a woman leader in a Fortune 500 company,” she says. “Her leadership is authentic.”

Stevens gives credit to a 2015 company initiative known as Gold Standard that guides how its 11,000 associates should prioritize behaviors and actions. Part of the program, known as the Associate Promise, revolves around core concepts of diversity and inclusion. When Stevens came into her position about two years ago — a year into the Gold Standard initiative — she made it a priority to understand and improve each HD Supply associate’s experience. Part of that effort was to conduct an employee survey and use their responses as a basis for company-wide programming. “One of the things we learned specifically is that our associates really wanted to connect,” Stevens says. “They wanted more ways to connect in the workplace. More ways to serve our customers.”

Examples include a recent company tour hosted for The Honor Foundation, an organization that supports Navy SEALs and the special operations community with transitioning back into the civilian workforce, and a program, to be run by associates for associates, focused on community connections in the Atlanta metro area. 

Under Stevens, new-hire orientation has grown from standard paperwork and onboarding activities to include gathering associate input on how they can connect with each other, customers and the community. “We're really excited, because the new hires that are in this building bring really vast experiences. They bring diverse backgrounds. Our new program is now best set up to meet the needs of those individuals,” Stevens adds. “Then ultimately to deliver to the customer.”

Focusing on diversity and inclusion is also a smart business move, according to the Harvard Business Review: Employees that come from more diverse companies are 45 percent more likely to report their firm’s market share grew over the previous year. Stevens says that distributors looking to make similar strides should embed the philosophy of diversity and inclusion into every element of the company, including a mission or value statement, as well as their overall talent strategy. “It's more than just an HR process,” she says. “I think it's a business process. At HD Supply we work on it every day.” Crucially, the initiative needs to come from a place of authenticity, she adds. That means executives putting themselves in a position where employees at all levels know they are open to discussions and comfortable having an ongoing dialogue. “People know that if you're talking about a topic such as this, that we take associates seriously and we're listening to them,” Stevens says. 

NDC’s Radziminiski agrees, saying the most successful, progressive organizations are those that “show up to these important discussions, honestly evaluate where they are diversity- and inclusion-wise, and are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone.” 

© 2019 Gale Media, Inc.

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